Rams GM: Offseason moves won't affect plan for Aaron Donald deal

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams have been wanting Brandin Cooks for over a year. They initially broached the subject of trading for him with the New Orleans Saints at the scouting combine of 2017, but he was dealt to the New England Patriots instead.

"New England had a first-round pick," Rams general manager Les Snead lamented. "We didn't."

Now the Rams don't have one, either. They sent the No. 23 overall selection in this year's draft to the Patriots earlier this week to finally acquire Cooks, who will replace Sammy Watkins as the vertical threat in Sean McVay's offense.

Cooks has only one year left on his rookie contract, set to cost about $8.5 million toward the 2018 salary cap. But the Rams hope to sign him to a long-term extension before training camp.

Cooks, traded for a first-round pick in back-to-back offseasons, sounded open-minded about it.

"You think about it," Cooks said shortly after being introduced at the Rams' facility Thursday. "It'd be an extreme blessing to be here for the long haul, coming in here to be with a special group of guys. At the end of the day, it's not something that I'm pressing."

Cooks, one of the game's fastest receivers, is one of four players to record at least three seasons of 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns before his 25th birthday, joining Randy Moss, John Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr.

The Rams previously expressed interest in Beckham, who might have run his course with the New York Giants. But they claim to have preferred Cooks all along, at least partly because of his even-keel demeanor, which runs contrary to the mercurial attitude Beckham can display.

To open Thursday's news conference, McVay mentioned the way others raved about Cooks, saying, "I'm hard-pressed to remember a player who has had so many positive things said about him from different people that he's been exposed to."

Snead added: "I told Brandin, and I was honest when I told him, that if my son could grow up to be half as respected as this guy was during the vetting process, I'd be a jacked father."

Of most importance, however, is that Cook's big-play ability rolls over coverage to free up the likes of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley II elsewhere. Saints coach Sean Payton and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are two of McVay's favorite playcallers, and that has indirectly prompted him to consume a lot of Cooks film in recent years.

McVay says he believes Cooks' skill set "fits kind of in any system. But I think specific to some of the things that we look for with the traits and characteristics from our 'X' receiver -- being able to take the top shelf off the coverage, being able to win on some underneath [isolations] when you're getting bump coverage. He's put that on tape really over the last four years, and that was something that we were excited about."

Cooks, who is represented by the same agency as Jared Goff, has compiled 227 catches for 3,393 yards and 24 touchdowns over the past three years. With the Patriots last year, he ranked seventh in the NFL with 16.65 yards per reception. But he was traded anyway, largely because New England was unwilling to eventually pay him like a top-tier receiver.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Cooks moments before the trade went down.

"I have a ton of respect for him," Cooks said, "and we have a ton of respect for each other."

Cooks is only the latest -- and, one would think, the last -- major addition in a head-spinning offseason for the Rams, who are looking to maximize on the championship window that exists because Goff is still early in his rookie contract.

The Rams previously traded away a couple of their starting linebackers, Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree, and traded for a couple of All-Pro cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. They signed star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who will be introduced by the team Friday, and then they acquired Cooks, in many ways the missing piece to their offense.

Now they will shift their focus to the draft -- they don't have a pick until the third round -- and to locking up key players, most notably Cooks and Aaron Donald, who will eventually become the game's highest-paid defensive player.

Donald, the Rams say, remains a top priority.

"None of it affects Aaron Donald," Snead said when asked whether the Rams' aggressive offseason prevented them from signing Donald long term. "He's one of 53, and as I've said plenty of times before, we've got that budgeted. We didn't do all of this and forget about him."